Monday, March 28, 2011

good nostalgia vs. bad nostalgia

last weekend, my 10-year-old was invited to a birthday party at our local roller rink, the Roller Garden.  having only roller skated once, she was not particularly enthused at the prospect of spending much of the afternoon on her butt, but as a young socialite, she knew that every one was counting on her to attend and transform an otherwise dull birthday into, well, a PARTY.  that DNA must be from her father.  my idea of a party is a G hook, a ball of worsted yarn, and a coupla homemade cosmopolitans.

after we navigated the tiny parking lot, we spoke with the nice lady behind the glass who handed my kid a glow stick and let us in through the heavy locked door.  i was engulfed in dim twinkly colored light, the smell of shoe sanitizer and polyurethane, and a loud but subtle roar of wind as skaters whizzed by me.  orange formica tables, brown plastic chairs gently curved to fit any bruised and tender posterior, indoor/outdoor carpet perfect for walking on with wheeled feet, the pounding beat of music that can't be danced to; a warm tingle washed over me.  i was a fifth grader again.

not many people know this, but i was quite the avid roller skater as a pre-teen.  it isn't that i keep it a secret, it's just that within the normal course of 44 year old conversation, the words "roller" and "skate" rarely arise and the two words together?  never.  at the time, my two best friends and i went almost every Saturday and, while the main goal was watching boys, we actually enjoyed the skating and got pretty good at it.  i remember the rink "guards" who were high school boys from another school who had whistles, lots of hair, and could even skate backwards!  i think the one i had a crush on was named "Tim."  i wonder if "Tim" knows he established a precedent for all the men i have ever loved….

so, the trip to the roller rink got me thinking about nostalgia and how it spans two worlds – one's personal memories and the collective past of our culture.  it is everywhere, including in crochet, which is often incorrectly viewed as an old lady's sport.  furniture, clothing, appliances, movie theatres, toys, cars, whatever, there is a "retro" version which usually costs twice as much as a modern version and twenty times what it would have cost when it was new.  i am just as sucked in by "retro" as the next consumer and, if i could afford it, everything i own would be from some other era.  why is this?  is it because our own presents are so complicated and difficult we want something else?  was our past reality so good that we want it back?  do we have romantic ideas of what we imagine must have been "the good old days" and seek to experience the ones we weren't there for?  whatever the reason, nostalgia is just like everything else – too much of a good thing is not good at ALL.

to illustrate my point, and help you achieve the optimum walk down memory lane, i have compiled a quick sample list of "good" nostalgia versus "bad" nostalgia.  it is my goal to help you find your own personal warm tingle zone and help you avoid the searing pain of bad nostalgia choices.

  1. good song nostalgia – Train In Vain, by the Clash; bad song nostalgia – Ice Ice Baby (or anything else) by Vanilla Ice
  2. good car nostalgia – the New Beetle; bad car nostalgia – the PT Cruiser
  3. good footwear nostalgia – Chuck Talyor sneakers and Vulcans; bad footwear nostalgia – Reebok "Pump" and Moon Boots (at the risk of backlash – Uggs are a close second)
  4. good heartthrob nostalgia – Andy Gibb; bad heartthrob nostalgia – Rex Smith
  5. good drinking nostalgia – Boone's Farm Tickle Pink; bad drinking nostalgia – what you did immediately after drinking Boone's Farm Tickle Pink
  6. good fashion nostalgia – leg warmers; bad fashion nostalgia – leg warmers
  7. good teevee nostalgia – the Monkees; bad teevee nostalgia – the A Team
  8. good hair nostalgia – your feathered bangs; bad hair nostalgia – your mullet
  9. good photo op nostalgia – your babies frolicking with the garden hose in the backyard; bad photo op nostalgia – your ex and you on your first camping trip, young and smiling
  10. bad nostalgia practice – looking beyond the nostalgic moment; good nostalgic practice – taking the nostalgic moment for what it was, not what it could have, or should have become


  1. That was the roller rink near Adrian, right?

    The one we had in Belleville (just around the corner from our house) was a nasty place, and
    would definitely go into the "bad" category for


  2. yes, it was. i didn't even know there was a rink in belleville! i would think that there are quite a few crandall ct nostalgias that would go in that category. thanks for reading, rick!

  3. What memories your post brought back. I loved roller skating as a kid and haven't done it since and now I'm (choke, gasp) 54. I hope your daughter had a nice time.